It’s been a long wait for Vancouver Whitecaps to get a home playoff game. Five years. But after one of the main priorities of the season was finally achieved and the massive buzz created by it, the ‘Caps 2015 season ended with more of whimper than a bang.
The Whitecaps looked out of sorts for a lot of their Western Conference semi-final second leg against the Timbers and after the injury to Kekuta Manneh midway through the first half, all the offensive spark just seemed to sap from the team.
Portland were there for the taking but credit has to be given to them for handling Vancouver with ease and snuffing out all the danger up the middle. The final scoreline of 2-0 was maybe a fair reflection over the two matches, but the ‘Caps will know the missed opportunity their missed chances provided.
The loss shouldn’t overshadow what was another great season of growth for the ‘Caps, but right now it’s disappointing how it all ended and it hurts. We’ll have more analysis over the week, but for now, for the final time this year, here’s our match report and postgame reaction from both dressing rooms.
Well that’s it all over for another season.
Vancouver Whitecaps playoff dreams and MLS Cup hopes came crashing to a halt at BC Place on Sunday evening after an electrifying atmosphere and start fizzled out.
What started out as a night to remember, ended as a night to forget, as goals from Fanendo Adi and Diego Chara gave Portland Timbers a fairly comfortable 2-0 win over a Whitecaps side that seemed short of ideas and any real attacking threat after Kekuta Manneh limped off with an ankle injury after just 26 minutes.
Manneh had looked to be the game changer for Vancouver in a fast-paced start. As it turns out, he was, but it was due to his injury. The Whitecaps failure to get an away goal down in Portland also proved costly, as did their continued inability to turn their numerous chances into goals.
Whitecaps’ talismanic captain Pedro Morales returned to the starting line-up, in the only Vancouver change from the first leg, with Diego Chara returning to Portland’s starting eleven. Only one of them was to have a huge influence in the game. Sadly for the ‘Caps, it was Chara.
With the first goal crucial, Vancouver attacked from the off and it was an electrifying start to the match from both teams.
Kekuta Manneh was amped up for this one and causing the Timbers a lot of early problems.
The Gambian fired a low shot narrowly wide right in the 6th minute, then followed it up moments later by running at the Portland defence and crashing another low shot off the left post, bouncing off the back of Timbers’ keeper Adam Kwarasey and past for a corner.
Diego Valeri had Portland’s best chance in the 14th minute, with a long range curler that went wide.
Vancouver’s early pressure and efforts had come to nothing. It’s something we’ve seen all season, with mixed results by the end of it. The ‘Caps were then dealt a blow midway through the half when Manneh slipped and went over on his ankle and had to be replaced by Mauro Rosales.
With two attacking midfielders now on the pitch that may struggle to see the end of the match, Vancouver’s depth was going to be tested.
Then things took an ever worse turn for the ‘Caps in the 31st minute when the Timbers took the lead.
Diego Valeri received the ball out left, hit the byeline and cut the ball back to an open Adi, who made no mistake in firing high into the Vancouver net.
It was now looking to be a massive uphill battle for the Whitecaps.
The away goal initially stunned Vancouver and BC Place, but the Whitecaps regrouped and finished the half strongly, with Kwarasey forced to tip an Octavio Rivero header over from under his bar, a minute before the break.
Vancouver tried to take the game to Portland at the start of the second and had a couple of penalty shouts that were given no time by referee Elfath.
The Timbers were looking comfortable and the ‘Caps seemed to have nothing left to throw at them.
David Ousted had to act quickly to keep out a Portland free kick that came through a mass of players untouched with ten minutes remaining.
Vancouver weren’t looking like getting one goal, never mind the two they needed, but as they pushed for any kind of consolation, Portland hit a second four minutes into stoppage time, when Chara buried an Adi layoff.
2-0 Portland and a trip to Dallas for their second Western Conference Championship game in two years now awaits the Timbers.
Vancouver now have time to rest, reflect on what was a fairly successful year, regroup and fill that massive need that still remains in the goalscoring department.
It’s been a great year taken as a whole, but a horrible ending. Focus on the former will certainly come, but right now, it’s hard to shake the latter. With the right additions and changes though, 2016 could be even better. But the bar is now set very high. Hopefully the ‘Caps can still reach and get over it.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 0 Portland Timbers
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour (Robert Earnshaw 82), Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Gershon Koffie (Darren Mattocks 63), Cristian Techera, Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh (Mauro Rosales 26); Octavio Rivero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Jordan Smith, Christian Dean, Russell Teibert]
PORTLAND: Adam Kwarasey; Alvas Powell, Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana (Norberto Paparatto 67); Diego Valeri (Jack Jewsbury 84), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe; Dairon Asprilla, Fanendo Adi, Rodney Wallace (Lucas Melano 80) [Subs Not Used: Jake Gleeson, Will Johnson, Taylor Peay, Maximiliano Urruti]
Thoughts on the match changing when Kekuta Manneh came off:
“Well, first of all I want to congratulate Portland, a credit to them for winning the game today, winning the two leg series. So, congratulations to them. It changed, dramatically. I think the kid started like a house on fire and put us in the ascendency with playing front football, and hit the two and have one or two half chances, then it changes. But when it’s not your day, it’s not your day and today, it wasn’t our day. We didn’t score a goal over two legs. When you don’t score a goal over two legs, unless you’re lucky and go to penalties and win, you’re not going to win a game of football, and that’s what happened.”
On what the team needs to get that early decisive goal in games:
“That’s a million dollar question. I think the reason strikers are paid so much money in this game is because they are able to put the ball into the back of the net and we haven’t been able to do that. Not just tonight, but for a number of games this year. That’s something I’ll have to go back to the drawing board with my staff in the offseason, and try and bring some more goals, because it’s ultimately cost us a little bit, especially tonight, and that’s something you have to take on the chin.”
On whether he thinks he waited too long to make an offensive substitution:
“No, because I made it at 58 minutes or so. I wanted to get a reaction out of the boys. I think they played very well in the first half. The game’s fine lines. Adi scores a good goal, probably we’re not set up properly off a throw in and pull back, he scores. You know, we had a chance last Sunday with Rivero on his left foot, but we don’t hit the target, he scores. In hindsight, you can say that a minute after he scored, maybe I should have changed it. But no, we give it a little bit. We changed the formation twice to try and get back into it. I think we could have been there another 90 minutes and not scored, it’s one of them.”
On if not getting the away goal in Portland was key to the match:
“I’ll never know, I suppose. As I said, they are disappointed today, disappointed for the guys in there, but really proud of them. They should come away from this season, we’ve achieved a lot of things at this football club and they should be proud of themselves. Disappointed, yes, we’ve missed an opportunity, a missed opportunity for us this year. But, we’re a young group of players and we’ll learn from it. As I said to you when I first walked in here, credit to Portland. They’re a good team.”
On what the positives were this season:
“I’m proud of them because they’ve achieved a number of firsts this year. The game is about proving people wrong and I’ve said that to you all along. If you don’t score a goal, you’ve got to continue to work hard to create chances to score goals. If you concede three goals, you’ve got to get back to basic defending probably. There’s a lot of positives, as I’ve said, they’re disappointed today because the fans out there were fantastic. What an atmosphere. I’m disappointed we couldn’t win the game for them. But that gives us a little taste and a sample of what we can do if we continue to build and continue to get positive results, because they supported us right until the 95th minute, which was great and I thank them for that.”
On a tough way to end the season:
“We were expecting here at home [to] win the game. We’re disappointed because we worked very hard during all the season to get to the final, looking to make a lot of history here at the club. But I’m very proud of my teammates because even when we were down we were trying to look how we could have scored, but it’s hard because Portland is a very good team and they deserved to win.”
On starting with energy before Kekuta Manneh went out injured:
“This is about scoring. We couldn’t score, Portland got their opportunity and everything shut off there. But it’s very hard not to talk because you feel a little disappointed and sad, so I’m sorry.”
On not scoring a goal:
“Very hard because we were looking corner kicks, free kicks, all over the place how to score and we didn’t get the opportunity clearly to score. But the other team played very good and they tried to defend very well.”
On disappointment of team not playing their best match:
“Yes, a lot. Everybody tried their 100 per cent. But now we just have to congratulate Portland for the win, and now we’re just looking forward for the next year trying to reach this place and trying to get to the finals.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Right now I’m very disappointed. Over 180 minutes we weren’t good enough. I’m proud of where we are and where we came to with this group, the growth we’ve shown throughout the year, but it’s a step short of where I wanted to go.”
On having an early chance to get the go-ahead goal:
“Obviously, we hit the post and Adam got it outside with, I think it was his neck. And obviously if that goes in it’s a different game. But like I say, all-in-all we don’t want to stand here and make excuses. Over 180 minutes I think Portland were the better team.”
On the atmosphere:
“We’ve had fantastic fans the whole year, and this is what we want as an organization, we want 27,000 here every time. We want at one point being able to open up this whole stadium. This is a step in the right direction, but like I say it’s a step short of where we wanted to go.”
On the performance v Portland:
“We didn’t perform as good as we played the last couple of games. It was a crucial game for us. This kind of game you have to step up with a different mentality, with a different approach to the games. Do your 110 percent every time. We had a good run during the season. When we should perform at higher levels, we didn’t. Disappointed but proud of the team for how hard they’ve worked during the year.”
On the Whitecaps season:
“I’m proud of the team. A lot of positive things, a lot of positive players coming up, doing a very good job. High levels all season for many of our players. We just wait for next year now.”
Thoughts on the win:
“I think we managed both legs really well. We didn’t give up the away goal which led into this game. We knew they would want to come out, and yet we wanted to be aggressive as well. We went for the first goal, and we got it. It was something we worked on, in terms of getting in that left channel. It was a great goal. Then that meant now that we could manage the game with the ball, which we did second half. You saw the possession that we had and we were able to keep them from attacking by doing that, and keep them from playing the transition they like to play by slowing the tempo down with the ball. We were very patient and organized and they had a hard time breaking us down and then we found the counterattack, which I knew would be on as they tried to push because they needed two goals after we found the first one. So I thought it was very well managed overall.”
On Norberto Paparatto having to sub in for injured Jorge Villafana:
“They needed two goals, so they started just throwing numbers forward and putting guys in up top so it made sense to put Paparatto in and push Liam over to left back, he can sit in and we can play almost with three central defenders. So it made sense at that stage in the game. And then when they made their last move putting Earnshaw in, then we went to two holding mids, just to kind of give us an extra number defensively. But listen, it’s the players, it’s nothing to do with my moves or things I do. It’s them playing inside the lines. This team, they play for each other, they’re very hungry, and the last six games we’re unbeaten. The last six games we’ve been in playoff mode, we’ve been in massive pressure. For this group to play the football they’re playing, under massive pressure, is a really good sign. Four teams left, and three games to go, and we have two teams in our way.”
On two weeks before the next match:
“We need to recharge and recover from this game, we have time to do that. And then we need to get back to training, and keep getting better. I think we’re still scratching the surface of the level this team can play at. Today we did some things we haven’t done all year. So that’s exciting, because I think we can still, in the next couple of weeks, go to another level. “
On facing FC Dallas:
“Very good team, but we’ve been playing good teams late in the year. Like I said, we’ve been in playoff mode. I think that’s helped us. I think our experience in the playoffs helped us in this series. We’ve already won a playoff series versus Seattle [in] 2013. I think this is now our fourth win in the playoffs. The maturity we showed today, the professionalism we showed in managing this leg, and both legs, I thought was visible. Obviously Dallas is a good team, but we’ve been beating good teams. I know these guys will be up for it.”
On his match-winning goal:
“That was just something we practice at training. When I saw Diego [Valeri] on the ball, I knew he was going to cut it back. We talked about getting [Kendall] Waston out of the box and he followed the ball. I knew he was going to cut it back and I just stayed in position. The ball came and I hit it well.”
On the Timbers attack clicking tonight:
“It’s massive. It’s just understanding. We’ve trained and played a lot with these guys. You understand their movement and your movement as well. It’s just an understanding and it worked very well for us today.”
On Diego Chara’s late goal:
“That was a massive goal. It’s almost the same goal he got against, I think, FC Dallas. He won the ball and I was in position so he gave it to me. I just let [Kendall] Waston get to my side again and give the ball back to him and he did a great job finishing well.”
On playing against Kendall Waston:
“It’s always a good battle going up against such a good player. He’s big and he challenges you to be very focused to challenge balls against him. It was a great battle. I’m glad we came out victorious.”
On tonight’s win:
“Our mentality tonight was to win. We tried to keep the ball and manage the tempo. We were effective with our chances. These were the real key for us.”
On his late goal:
“My role is to defend but sometimes I find space to attack, and tonight I did.”
On facing FC Dallas:
“FC Dallas are a good team. They have good players. The first leg will be at home and we need to win that.”
On Fanendo Adi’s goal:
“We’re confident in him because he can score. It was a great moment for him.”
On tonight’s win:
“Last time we were here, it was disappointing. They scored in the very last minute. It was very satisfying tonight. The boys played fantastic. I thought we deserved to win. I’m looking forward to the next game.”
On Robert Earnshaw’s performance:
“He tried his luck. Rob has always done that back home and since coming over here. I think we did well tonight as a team defensively. They couldn’t break us down. As soon as we got the first goal, we knew they had to get two. [Diego] Chara put the icing on the cake. It was fantastic.”
On the team’s celebration after Diego Chara’s goal:
“It was fantastic. The goal at the end certainly put the nail in the coffin. Everyone celebrating together was fantastic. That’s what we’ve been about over the last two and half months. Riding the wave, everyone together. We’re looking to do that next game.”